It’s Friday morning, and that means it’s time for another weekly pile of news, with just a bit of snarky commentary from myself. This week there’s still more television news — this is the time of year when the big networks start planning their next years’ pilots — and a few more standard film franchise rumors. As well as a few other items of interest. As is becoming the rule, there’s a bit too much for the front page of the blog, so click through to see what’s going on! Continue reading
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….
Star Wars is a film that virtually everybody in western civilization recognizes, and just about everybody has seen. From the vantage point of 2012, the film’s 35th anniversary, it almost beggars belief to think that there was a time when this film was expected to be a failure. And yet, when it was in production and nearing release, almost nobody thought that it would amount to anything. Only one man had any faith in the project; only one man thought that it would not only be a success, but a massive one.
That man was famed Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, who had nothing to do with the film. George Lucas himself thought he had a disaster on his hands. Continue reading
In a move sure to grab some attention, the Walt Disney Company has announced plans to acquire Lucasfilm, Ltd., and all its properties. This includes, of course, Star Wars, which will be receiving a new sequel in 2015, with Star Wars: Episode VII (a subtitle has not yet been announced). George Lucas will remain as a creative consultant, while Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will be moved to the position of President of Lucasfilm and will serve as executive producer on all new Star Wars feature films.
Obviously this all is a lot to take in a for a Star Wars fan. I had personally thought we were probably done with new Star Wars feature films, so an Episode VII comes as a bit of a surprise — though it does make sense that Disney would want to further their newly acquired property. What story a seventh episode might be is an open question — fan speculation since before the prequels ran towards Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy when it was published, but there is no guarantee that Disney will go with the always deuterocanonical-at-best extended universe continuity. Plus, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford are all getting up there in years (though Zahn’s trilogy was at least set a generation down.) That the film is coming out in the relatively soon year of 2015 seems mighty early for a film that, to the best of my knowledge, wasn’t in production before. So naturally, like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m viewing this with a degree of trepidation — but just like every other Star Wars fan, I’ll be sure to see the film when it hits theatres. Let’s not lie to ourselves. Even after getting a little burned on the prequels, passing up Star Wars just isn’t something that’s going to happen.
One possible bit of good news is that Disney seldom lets artistic pride get in the way of making a buck. This is just speculation on my part, but I would imagine that the odds of a remastered unedited original trilogy release have just gone way up.
Perhaps it’s fitting that it took me a few weeks after my “Bat-Month” ended to get around to watching Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. After all, the title is also known as Batman of the Future; a certain amount of time-displacement in the review is kind of appropriate. Released direct-to-video in 2000, and directed by Curt Geda, it’s the fourth film spun off of the various DC Comics animated series; in this case, it came at the tail end of the Batman Beyond series, which focuses on Gotham City a few decades in the future.
Gotham in the future is a bit of a different town than in the main animated Batman continuity, and it’s worth going over a few of the fine points here for people who haven’t seen the series (though the movie does a decent job of standing on its own). Bruce Wayne (still voiced by Kevin Conroy) is too old to continue wearing the cape and cowl; the long nights and constant fighting have caught up with him over the years, and his heart is weak. But he still has a drive to see justice done in Gotham, and that drive is met by a young man named Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle). Terry’s father was killed early in the series, giving him much the same reason to fight crime, though he also feels a need to atone for his juvenile delinquent past. The new Batsuit is a marvel of technology, with flight capability, strength enhancers, and limited-duration cloaking. There’s still a Commissioner Gordon watching over Gotham and reluctantly accepting the help of Batman, but now it’s Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl. And Gotham still has its assortment of thieves, assassins, and utter nutcases. Gene-splicing is used by some individuals to gain inhuman powers, and the city is plagued by roving teen gangs, most particularly the “Jokerz”, hoodlums who dress garishly and paint their faces in homage to the long dead Clown Prince of Crime.
But then Gotham is turned upside down by the reappearance of the real Joker, who takes over one of the gangs of Jokerz, and starts systematically attacking the members of the Bat-family and working towards a plan to leave the city in utter chaos. Continue reading
I remember a couple of years ago some friends and I were discussing superhero movies. I had just finished watching the hilariously terrible Batman and Robin, and commented that this meant I had now seen all the Batman movies. One of my friends asked if that included the animated movies, and I had to admit that it did not; they had slipped my mind at the time (I’m also short one of the old movie serials, though I own and have watched the other.) The animated movies have had a way of slipping past my radar; I remember seeing commercials for the first, Mask of the Phantasm, when it came out, but as this was before I had my own driver’s license, I was unable to see it in the theatre, and eventually forgot about it. Once reminded, however, I had to add it to my “to see” list, and kept an eye out for opportunities to watch it.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was the first animated movie featuring Batman, and also the only one to have had a theatrical release. It was originally conceived as a two-part episode for the Batman animated series, but was expanded just slightly (to 76 minutes, just barely long enough to constitute a feature) and reworked for the movie theaters. Being essentially a part of the series, it uses the same animation style, and several of the regular voice actors reprise their roles. Kevin Conroy is Batman, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is Alfred, and Bob Hastings provides the voice of Commissioner Gordon, though Gordon’s role in the film is rather small. Continue reading
Battle for Terra, previewed in 2007 and given a full release in March of 2009, is a relatively short (85 minutes) science-fiction animated film that is absent of attempts at comedy or musical numbers, instead seemingly aiming at the young adult crowd (though it still had a PG rating). I give it credit for not going the easy comedy route established by fellow CG films such as Shrek, Ice Age, Hoodwinked, and so forth. I also give it credit for not aping the art design of any other movie, and for recruiting a surprisingly large number of known actors for the voices. Seriously, the number of minor-to-major roles filled here by actors who are seldom headliners anymore but are solid performers is really surprising.
Sadly, I cannot give it credit for being a great movie. When I saw it was available on Hulu, I was curious as to why I hadn’t heard of it; after watching it, I can see why it didn’t generate much buzz. It’s just not a very good movie, nor a very memorable one. Continue reading